About Me,  Family Life,  motherhood,  Parenting

The tipping point

Right after Luke the duke, lucky numero quattro was born, I remember feeling kind of shocked that I didn’t feel, well, worse. 

I experienced that such!a!relief! not to be pregnant anymore feeling, of course, but more than that, I actually found myself more relaxed and more put together than when I had 3 kids.

I still feel that.

But. BUT. My house.

You guys? My house is a pit.

It’s a tidy pit, for the most part, because I’m a relatively Kondo’d kinda girl without a lot of clutter to my name. But the floors are so dirty. And there are (used) pull-ups and clothes and shoes everywhere. Just everywhere.

I’m in constant go go go pick up pick up pick up mode. And I can’t seem to hit my stride. Eitther we all 1. get out the door for something (mom’s group, dr’s appointment, school drop off (<– more to come on that front. #cliffhanger) or 2. the breakfast dishes get done and oops it’s lunch and oops, maybe a shower at 3 pm…but we don’t leave the house, or sometimes 3. I crank the James Taylor Holiday station on Pandora and we hit “super bust out mode” for 20 minutes, and we hit it hard, and the house looks reasonably livable by nightfall.

But gone are the days when I could casually clean-as-you-go. Gone are those idyllic periods of time where nothing was in the washing machine or the laundry baskets for at least an hour. Sometimes 2!

There is never a moment now when I am fully caught up, and there is never a moment where I couldn’t be doing “something.” 

It’s hard.

I feel more stretched than ever before. I also feel really fulfilled. And over caffeinated. All the feels, you know?

But more than anything, I feel that this is just the tip of the iceberg. That life is going to get more chaotic and more busy and more …full. Because they’re growing. And I’m realizing that if I don’t grow with them, in wisdom and discipline and just plain competency…I’m going to wake up and be 43 years old and mostly bald.

Being a mom of little kids is grueling. It’s physically taxing and emotionally challenging, and at the end of the day I collapse into the couch and exhale and … whew.

But I can already tell that big kids are going to be harder. And I don’t even have any yet, not really. My oldest is 5-going-on-15, and I’m seeing more and more where the model of “mommy-does-everything” is going to fail him on so.many.levels. if I don’t start relinquishing some control and handing over the reins and just plain forcing him to do certain things for himself. And for the rest of the family.

I can see the temptation to keep doing all the cooking and cleaning myself, because I do it “right” and because I do it best (inarguably, I do.), but I have enough children now that it’s becoming physically impossible for me to do it all, and to have any sort of breathing room.

So this is just a kind of meditation on letting go, I guess.

Of expectations. Of unrealistic standards. Of the desire that everyone’s laundry be put away while still folded in the appropriate drawers.

It’s not. It won’t be. They’re learning to do it themselves, and I’m learning to let them do it themselves, and also that on any given day I have to choose what to let go. And it can’t be my personal prayer time, or even the 20 minutes I took the other night to play candy land with 2 highly incompetent and inefficient cohorts. They loved it, and I have to grit my teeth and learn to love it.

Because I know they need to see me resting. To see me being still and being silly and being open to doing something off script. God knows I’ve got a tightly crafted script running in my head at all times, and that I’d like to run a tight ship. I’m Gayle freaking Waters in my mind, for the love.

But I’m not meant to stay there. I really believe that’s a big part of the reason these kids are mine; to break me down. To refine me and refashion me into someone who’s less uptight and more focused on the things that matter. An eternal perspective instead of an internal perspective.

But I’m also confidant that I’m meant to teach my boys how to fold dishtowels and match socks, and to bite my perfectionist tongue when the end result looks positively barbaric. Because I can’t do it all. And they can’t do it perfectly. And that’s okay.

I do still really, really need to clean the bathrooms though.

Send clorox and warmest wishes.

(Oh, and p.s., in the sake of full disclosure, I’m also hiring a cleaning service to come once a month, and allocating some room in the budget from the categories of entertainment/home goods/groceries to do it. Because we can drop meat from one meal a week/I can stop buying random crap at Target/we can forgo that movie/date night/whathaveyou roughly to the tune of what it will cost to bring in an expert 12 times a year to reset our funk level from “obscene” to “clean-ish slate.” (Thanks, Blythe, for the nudge.)

IMG_8947
falling behind on the laundry has consequences, mother.

21 Comments

  • Suzi Whitford

    I love honest mommy blogs! Especially honest Catholic mommy blogs! I can so relate 🙂 My second baby is on the way and I’m learning to let go of a few things, of having things done ‘my’ way (which is vanity, I know).

    1. The dishwasher does not need to be packed perfectly, as long as hubby puts his dishes in it, I’m happy! Or the towels in the bathroom, if they’re off the floor, wonderful! No need to have my bathroom look like a pin from Pinterest.
    2. I try to focus my time on what is most important. A home cooked dinner and an exhausted unpleasant wife or a happy wife and a Firehouse sub? I’ll learn how to do it all one day, but for now, Firehouse is our go to!
    3. I’ve cut myself some slack on the caffeine restriction during pregnancy. I may drink two cups (GASP) a day. I console myself that it’s instant coffee and less potent than the Starbucks kind. 🙂

    Oh yes, and I love this quote “To refine me and refashion me into someone who’s less uptight and more focused on the things that matter.” It’ll be tweeted in 3.., 2.., 1!

    Thank you for your honesty Jenny! Always a treat to read.

  • LisaM

    Oh goodness, THIS POST. Yes, so many little kids = doing so much of everything for everyone! After #2 I just started piling the kids’ clothes in their drawers even though it made me cringe, and the laundry baskets are always in use! And the stray socks, clothes, shoe mayhem…why?? Isn’t it strange to get to that point where you realize you might be still babying your oldest, even though they still are considered little? I’m realizing that in parenthood I continually need to reevaluate things and let go.

  • Sara Stutzman

    Jenny, my kids are now adults. Our 2nd grandchild is on the way but the overwhelming-ness of this stage of life is an ever present memory.
    This book…The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and Women’s Work by Kathleen Norris changed my life as a young Mom. Laundry, like liturgy is never done. Being done is not the goal. We don’t go to Mass one time and find ourselves transformed. We are transformed into a Christ-like person throughout life including right up to the end…just like the beginning of life through our child-bearing transforms us. It’s a great little book, short but packed full of wisdom. Prayers from another Mom for you all.

    • Anne McD

      Thank you for saying this, Sarah! I’m at seven kiddoes now, and its like the wheel not only isn’t stopping, its getting faster and dirtier! I’ve had a similar thought recently, though, that it ISN’T going to be done until they are gone, and then I’ll miss having them here. The trick is to live in it and love them in it, and not wish it all away. Something I need to constantly remind myself!

  • Sarah

    Before Thanksgiving Ryan and I were both sick and the idea of making dinner was repulsive. I suggested cereal and our oldest said it was not a good dinner. I said then you make a sandwich and HE DID! and I was like…whoa, life just changed!!! It wasn’t the sandwich I would have made and more crumbs were left than usual BUT the idea of someone else doing it was mind blowing. It felt like a new chapter began in that moment and I really do want to embrace it!

  • Karyn

    It really does get easier the older they get, pinky swear. My older ones are capable of making lunch for the others, doing their own laundry, etc. But then again, I really, really value independence/competency in my kids and foster it for my own sanity. Also, I can’t speak for you, but I think a big reason God sent me so many children is because He knows how much I like to control/organize things….and I just can’t with this many kids and homeschooling. I mean, I do to as great a degree as I can, but I’ve been very humbled in learning to let go of A LOT of things. Finally, check out the blog raisingarrows.net — she has some great practical advice for how to run things. One thing she said is that, even when she had fewer children, she worked on developing a “large family mindset” — and large family is where you’re headed, hopefully 🙂

  • Katie

    My kids are older (9,8,6,2), and your sense that it gets harder is really true. They do more stuff so they get into more stuff, like painting and crafts and projects, and make bigger messes that they can’t always clean up alone. But in some ways it gets easier! I used to make their snacks and lunches out of sheer habit from the preschool days, and one day my husband took over told them to make their own snacks and get hot lunch (it is affordable and nutritious at our school). I thank him all the time because now I sip coffee and talk to them in the morning. And God bless mother’s helpers that want to play Candy Land. And housecleaners. They are worth their weight in gold.

  • Kati

    I so so so support the monthly housekeeper. I also support wholeheartedly a cleaning technique I like to call “Kids Wielding Wipes” – clorox wipes, specifically. Minimal supervision required so that wipes are not put in mouths, and hands are washed after the wiping, but the kids really can clean the bathroom relatively well with a wipe or two each!!

  • Holly

    When my floors get really awful and I don’t have time to deal with it, I put on tennis shoes and remember that in the prairie days they were sweeping dirt floors. Good for you for getting a cleaning person!

    Also, keep coming at us with posts about how its not terrifying to have number 4. I am 50% of me is completely ready for #4 and 50% of me is terrified. I think I would be 60/40 if I still had the good doctor…

  • Heather

    (weak laugh) Yep, 5 weeks postpartum with #3. First c-section, and first hospital birth, for that matter. Recovery continues to be rough; kids continue to be rough (but we’re working on it!). And the house…! But I’m learning to let go. It’s all part of God’s salvation plan for me. Glory to God for all things.

    But I’m very, very interested in a monthly cleaning service!

  • Amanda

    Letting go can be even harder than doing everything! My floors are pretty dirty but the 7 year old vacuums.

    Going off script is so hard. I’m not spontaneous. The other day we skipped the library for play outside and they threw balls of mud in the neighbors’ pools so look where that got me.

  • Kaitlin @ More Like Mary

    My Luke has also been my tipping point and oh my goodness my house is a mess. This one rings so true, like they all do.

  • jeanette

    <>

    You are halfway home just by realizing what needs to happen!

    One of my biggest memories of being one of my parents seven kids was that my mother never seemed to stop doing laundry. For our family of nine, she had ONE laundry hamper. WE put our own clothes into it, SHE washed and dried (even when we were older, since my dad wanted to make sure the machines didn’t get wrecked or something like that!). I remember when we were little, SHE would sort and stack our laundry onto her dresser top, and WE were to retrieve our stack and put it away. That day. Then, she got smart and dumped the load onto her bed, and WE had to sort out our own stuff and fold it ourself and take it to our room and put it away. That day.

    My own kids, as young as 3 years old, mastered the fine art, too. They shared a laundry hamper, put their own stuff in it, I washed it, dried it, and gave them the basket of clean, dry clothes to sort and put away. They also made their beds every morning and put their toys away whenever they finished playing with them. They set the table, unloaded dishes, and mowed lawns as they got older. We all worked together in the yard from the time they were young. They never gave me any problems at all on household chores, and actually offered to help with things rather than waiting to be asked. It was just a routine part of daily life. Kids can do many things just as well as you can. You just have to really believe in their capacity to learn to master things. They are very trainable in different things at different stages of growth. As an adult, you just have to be sure they aren’t given tasks that are health hazards, i.e. using hazardous chemicals or equipment. Stick to safe things. The goal is to get them to share the load, not be given adult responsibilities too soon.

    My husband and I both had careers at the beginning, so we each always did our own laundry. Once I started staying home, he still did his own laundry. He also was in charge of the dishes, since I cooked. He was in charge of vacuuming, I mopped. I cleaned toilets and sinks, he cleaned tubs and showers. You get the idea. Husbands can do things too. You, after all, are engaging with your children all day long. That is a full time job, too. So don’t think it is wrong to expect your husband to carry part of the load. It’s not enough to accept responsibility either. The biggest trick is to make sure you all follow through with your commitment to help one another to make the home a nice place to live. And Mom gets to be the number one example setter for the entire family. Someday, they’ll remember you for it.

    The one thing to avoid is having some kids carry more of a load than others as they get older. I had a sibling who played “incompetent” in order to get out of doing chores. I’ve also seen families where the eldest child (often a girl) resented having too much responsibility. So, just because competence is demonstrated, doesn’t mean the older ones should have to bear so much more of it. Again, one needs to aim at “many hands make for light work” and not an imbalance of work being designated to a few. Chores started at a young age will make it a natural part of life, so it is a very positive thing for children to be trusted to help.

  • Kathryn

    Three words: COH. As in, citizen of the household duties. They save us. I’m totally Type A when it comes to all things. But, God is a funny man and sent me six kids. We have order, but my kids totally pitch in and that is a game changer. You just gotta lean into the organized chaos. Because I can tell you that the days of being frustrated about having to make everyone’s lunches is now a distant dream. I’m now freaking out over social media use and girls of the teenage persuasion that are interested in my teenage boy. Eek! But, that will evolve and I’ll move on to the next phase of parenting wondering why I fussed over the things I fuss over now. All that to say, lean into the season. As soon as you figure it out, your kids go and change it on you. And, totally high fiving you on the monthly housecleaner. We have one, too, and it’s the only reason I have clean toilets.

  • Ashley

    So true, Jenny. All of it!
    I am a control freak who had an only child for 4 1/2 years. So my control freak ways just strengthened. Then we had 2 babies 9 months apart (one adopted, one biological) and I fell deep into what I (not so fondly) refer to as the “black hole”. My husband pointed out that the solution was to “lower my standards”. Which I found highly offensive. But eventually correct.
    Turns out that I really needed to work on giving up control, and when someone like me prays for kids, God laughs and answers the prayer with a perfect “learning opportunity”. I’m way more laid back now. Out of sheer necessity.
    And yes to the cleaning service. I was given several months as a baby gift, and my lovely husband told me to just keep it going. So, so worth it.

  • Colleen Martin

    Obviously every mother has a different personality and skill set, which totally affects how we mother our kids, but for me….they get so much easier as they grow up. At least physically! They can clean themselves, dress themselves, go to the bathroom, entertain themselves, help with chores and cooking, etc. I am still just as involved as when they are little, but it’s in a different role, and one that I find easier for me than the demanding baby stages. I send my kids to school, which is also huge in making the day go smoother. I think you need to cut yourself some slack about the state of your house. You don’t have anyone old enough to really help you clean it, and you work from home!! My husband and I go around the house for about a half hour after dinner and clean up, do laundry, prep for the next day, and it keeps the house under control. Yes, our floors don’t get mopped every night, but the laundry is always done, the dishes are always cleaned, their lunches are always made…that’s what they notice. Your kids feel loved and safe and I really want to encourage you that your house won’t always be littered with toys, soon enough you’ll be packing up the toys to send to another family with lots of littles. Hugs!

  • Caroline

    Get a shoe tree, it really helps with the shoes and the kids, even at five years old and under, can have fun hanging the their shoes up. It twirls.

  • Stephanie

    Oh my, you spoke the very words in my heart/head. I am 28 weeks with #4, and learning these lessons the hard way, ie. Burnout. I sooooo crave order and beauty in my home….which I think is not a bad thing in itself, as it reflects a desire for the ultimate order and beauty, which we hope to one day encounter in heaven. But God keeps showing me time and again that it all (my sanity) comes undone if I pursue this order before nourishing my relationship with Him. For a long time, I justified my crazy nonstop organizing and cleaning as “stewardship,” caring for all I had been given. Then it hit me smack in the face that in caring for all the stuff, I wasn’t doing a great job caring for the more important humans in the home that had been entrusted to me. Still searching for balance in it all…prayers for you as you continue to find yours!

  • Nancy

    I was so overwhelmed by the sight of dishes in my sink this afternoon that I decided to teach my 7 year old how to play Cat’s Cradle instead. And then, after dinner, I ignored them all to watch a documentary and fold laundry. I like to strike a balance… the dishes got done eventually.

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